The COVID-19 pandemic has led many musicians and actors to come up with innovative outlets for their creative ideas. Some have also taken the opportunity to return to old ones, too. Singer-songwriters Tyler Rich and Scarlett Burke are two such artists, releasing a previously-recorded song on a unique podcast series that Burke started during the pandemic.
The podcast, a scripted country musical written by David Hudgins of Friday Night Lights, follows the creation of approximately nine tracks, that will release on a biweekly basis. “Breathe,” which released on the 4th episode (and is now everywhere on DSP), is — as the name implies — a breezy uplifting track, that listeners first hear in the debut episode of Make It Up As We Go.
“Tyler and I actually wrote ‘Breathe’ with Audio Up CEO Jared Gutstadt [a musician in his own right] a few years back before this podcast went into development, so it was just sitting on the shelf, and a track I always loved,” Burke tells American Songwriter.
For Burke, who’s also an actress, the podcast has been a way to showcase her burgeoning music career, which she developed in between acting jobs. She came up with the idea for the podcast while playing gigs around LA.
“Eventually I started traveling out to Nashville for writing sessions and gigs. I felt confident about the material from the sessions there, but I knew it wasn’t quite mainstream radio, so I wanted to find a new platform to share my music,” she says. “Podcasts seemed like a new way to tell stories in the audio space; it also allowed me to showcase my music within the story.”
Make It Up As We Go tells the story of a female songwriter in Nashville’s predominately male-driven, high-stress writing rooms, where songwriters big and small get together hoping to pen the next No. 1 hit. Burke plays lead character, Charlotte, whose love of country music was sown at a young age. The likes of Miranda Lambert, Lindsay Ell, and Bobby Bones round out the cast making cameos. The audio drama mixes interviews, the sounds of voice memos as scratch versions of songs in progress, and the raw moments of conversations captured on Charlotte’s journey to stardom.
Produced by Gutstadt’s Audio Up Media, together with Sony Music and iHeartPodcast Network, the first two episodes came out at the beginning of October. “Breathe,” which debuted on the show’s fourth episode, is a breezy uplifting track, that listeners first hear in the debut episode of Make It Up As We Go. “Scarlett and I actually met the same day we wrote this song,” says Rich. “She has such a great energy, and all the emotion and vibes of this song fell out really naturally together. When the podcast idea came about, her and our other co-writer, and creator of the podcast, Jared, told me they wanted to use it for the soundtrack. And I loved the idea!”
The song fits easily into the series, but it also works practically. “While in post-production, I realized we were going to have a significant amount of licensing clearances, so rather than going that route, I decided to turn ‘Breathe’ into a fictional hit in the series,” says Burke. “This was a way to find a home for the track and avoid having to clear multiple tracks.”
The lyrics speak of yearning to be back on the open road — a place Rich is very familiar with. His debut album, Two Thousand Miles, was finished in quarantine between two cities, Nashville and Los Angeles, where he and his wife live, juggling careers between music and acting. “I do exactly what this song tells you to, I get out and drive,” he tells American Songwriter. “I explore national parks and find places to clear my mind and get inspired. Now that some restrictions have lifted, I have focused most my inspiration on the road.”
Like Rich, Burke hasn’t been letting the challenges of this year stop her from getting her music out, and the music of others, too. “The goal was to show the range that songwriters write in in Nashville, as well as the range of what we hear on country radio,” she says. “Lots of folks have reached out saying they have discovered my music from within the podcast which is incredible,” she says. “It’s also amazing seeing how Hollywood is using podcasts as the new form of story discovery. I’ve been overwhelmed by the outreach from agents, studios and film/ TV people. We are already thinking about music for the TV side of this and how Season 2 and beyond will unfold.”